A strange day

This morning I was able to sit for awhile and take in the second prayer call, using in the beautiful hypnosis as the backdrop for my own prayers. Today was a good day. A sad day, to be sure, but a good day nonetheless. My prayers go out to all of those affected by the bombings in London. We were all gathered around the television for hours watching BBC and having conversation about the state of the world. For those of you who are still in the dark or in denial about this one, just for clarification…the Islamic world does not support terrorism as an institution. They do not agree with the credo “Kill all Americans and Westerners.” I’m sure there are people around that do share that sentiment, but I haven’t met them yet.

It’s a weird day to be a foreigner in a foreign land. My family told me today that they’d hide me ala Anne Frank if anything happens here, which gave us a nice break of laughter in the midst of the chaotic conversations about terrorism, Islam, America, Zanzibar, politics, religion, etc. It is so painful to hear people I care about so deeply talk about how terrorism and the west’s response to things like today affect their lives. Marshed was planning to go visit the eldest sister Mami in London after about three weeks, but now he’s sure that he doesn’t want to put in the $100 non-refundable payment for the visa application. He’s certain he’ll be turned down. Shinuna described to me in detail the hassle our government caused with her over her application for an American visa a couple of months ago, and I was so saddened by the story.

Aren’t we a country founded by people who were fleeing religious persecution? Aren’t we supposed to be a country where religion and the government have separation? Is that now an impossible ideal to uphold? Has the world become so polarized that it is impossible for multiple religious groups to co-habitate? Do we really still think that all of the problems in the world are caused by people in Muslim garb? Why aren’t we kept out of countries around the world? Aren’t we causing just as much strife in the world right now as good? Someone tell me otherwise…

I’m not suggesting that one way is right and another wrong. My point is that no single country, religion, or person holds the lock and key of correct action and truth. Let me say it loudly for anyone to hear…I don’t think that our country makes all of the right decisions, but I am a patriot and do think that there are good things we do for certain. I do believe at times that our government is trying to do the right thing, but I don’t think we stop to think long enough before taking action that not only affects the world, but marks our present reality indelibly and irreversibly. We are the most powerful nation in the world, and we could be doing so much more with that power than we are. Nay, with the power should also come the responsibility to use our power where it will have the greatest effect with the greatest number of people.

When I was here last, we were loved as a nation, even if there were quite a few things that people were upset about, on the whole, Americans were viewed rather fondly. Now, Americans are not seen in the same glow. Actually, it’s quite opposite. I’m sure you’re all surprised to hear that.

I think the war our young men and women are continuing to fight smells quite similar to a war in the late 60’s and early 70’s which also started as an idealogical struggle “defending” our way of life. Is there a difference in our actions and responses now and 35 years ago? Communism, dictatorships, corrupt democracies…down with them all until when? Until all the world speaks English and participates in the fucking Coke v. Pepsi challenge? Well, we’re there my friends. Consider us arrived.

Conversely, behind the growing modernity, the pulse of the day in Zanzibar is kept by muezzin calling out prayers from mosques scattered about town. The main mosque in Stown Town calls prayers, first at 4 in the morning or saa kumi alfajiri in Kiswahili. After the main prayer call the prayers spread outward from the center like the calm ripples which follow a drop in an open ocean.

People congregate all day long on benches called baraza hanging out to talk. Workers toil through rainy mornings and the hot midday sun with a diligence rarely seen elsewhere. Mothers shuffle to and from the market at Darjani collecting the day’s vegetables, meat and bread. Children are always caught up in some game – today we walked through a makeshift football pitch in the middle of an alleyway with lines drawn on the ground in chalk representing the half-line and goalkeeper’s box while the goal itself was a shrunken rectangle on the walls behind.

The town breaks out in scents of charcoal and spice just before mealtimes, and if you’re on the outskirts of town, it’s bound to smell like cloves as they are dried in huge quantities on the side of the roads heading north to Nungwi, east to Bwejuu, or south to Kizimkazi. It is a pleasant, slow life here. Don’t be confused, people do work here.

Actually, the general worker keeps long hours and through rather insanely hot days and humid afternoons. Business is certainly constructed from a different blueprint, but why is our way of working 40-60 hours a week standard? Is it just so that we can spend a weekend day buying “something shiny and electronic and pick up something sweet and greasy to eat in front of our TV?” (Taken from an article in this month’s issue of Tricycle magazine.) What is it that is so attractive about our culture of ‘more’ that we feel we need to impose on people?

I’m not picking sides here…just ruminating over the questions that have arisen in a long day of events…

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